« NYCB Art Night – not exactly incredible | Main | Reminder – Prix de Lausanne finals livestreamed Saturday »

February 04, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I hope they recruit a new director who will grow the company from within and concentrate on dancers trained at their own school.

In general, I see a concentrated effort by directors, boards etc. trying to erase regional styles in favor of "international" hodge podge. I suppose it would be easier for the pocketbook to just insert Type A guest dancer in this dance slot than it is to foster talent from the school up.

It appears that the beautiful, very French, very classy Aurelie Dupont will take over.

We love the Paris Opera Ballet and hope that they come back to New York with their most famous works.

OMG!This is fantastic news! Aurelie Dupont will make a wonderful director. I always thought Millepied was a bad fit from the start.

Yes, she will be wonderful. So French, so classy, so beautifully French classical.

French ballet is saved.

We love the Paris Opera Ballet. Love, love, love.

I was perplexed when I heard Benjamin wanted to take over Paris Opera Ballet. It seemed very out of place, despite the fact that he is French. He seemed much more like a successor to Peter Martins if he wanted to be. By the way, when do we think Martins will retire and who might take over when he does? Or maybe he'll stay on until death who knows.

On a personal level, not a fan of Benjamin Millepied after the whole Natalie Portman/Isabella Boylston drama. But I guess nobody can resist a movie star.

I doubt that Millepied will be in the running for NYCB after Martins, who, BTW, is not yet 70 and still very spry while enjoying his most successful years with the company. I hope he keeps going for quite a while.

On the note about Natalie Portman... I do wonder how much say she had about returning to the US? Money and fame sometimes can play a big part?

I imagine so. Still - Ben publicly airing his grievances about the institution in a TV program before leaving was not good style. He should have left first; then, complained.

Josua Hoffalt speaks up

https://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/1477668-benjamin-millepied-quitte-l-opera-de-paris-danseur-je-ne-le-regretterai-pas.html

So is Karl Paquette

https://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2016/02/04/benjamin-millepied-va-t-il-quitter-l-opera-de-paris_4858949_3246.html

BM rubbed many stalwart fans as well as internal staff the wrong way from the start of his tenure. His initial accusation of POB for being inherently racist did not go well. Many were perplexed at him saying POB dancers should reflect today's multiethnic French society, and the fact that it did not have the number of non-White dancers meant only one thing: that it was inherently backwards and racist. Never mind that his former troupe in L.A. didn't have any racial minority members. The cognitive dissonance was mind boggling. BM's solution was to be able to bring in dancers who trained elsewhere besides POB's feeder school. Many were further alarmed at such a suggestion, as that would mean a dilution of company style, a certain French way of dancing if you will. Imagine an AD for the Bolshoi or the Mariinsky saying and implementing something similar, they wouldn't last long either.

Almost before that controversy had subsided, another one started. It was clear that his brief paean to upholding classical ballet tradition, or I should say overturn the modernist tide that his predecessor Lefevre had instituted in her 20-year tenure, was also just lip service. He commissioned works from his NYCB friends as well as Forsythe amongst others, and I believe he even hired NYCB dancers to be coaches at POB for short duration. The Robbins-heavy program finally made people realize that BM was really trying to turn POB into NYCB- Paris branch. The dancers he chose to promote and cast were as they said, sort of his own handpicked clique, since he neglected the more established soloist ranks.

Now with the news of his leaving- firing, POB dancers have come out publicly with details of why the news wasn't surprising to them. They said he seemed to be more interested in his short-film and social media projects than the management of POB itself. Staff said if one wanted to reach him it was easier to leave comment on his Facebook account. Leftover also herself came out swinging against BM's lack of experience and desire to run POB, which is a job she said that is 80% administrative and 20% artistic. Perhaps BM thought his Hollywood and NYCB connections would allow him to bypass the more mundane aspects of running a ballet company. It was true he brought in new money in fundraising efforts, but being the AD of a 300+ year-old, venerated company with history and tradition, being good at fundraising and making short films promoting POB will only get one so far if one is to effectively run the company from within. It's fun and great to show up at fundraising parties with the nouveau riche and high society donors, but the vast majority of the time isn't spent charming those people but instead in dealing with dancers, ancillary staff, etc...

The final straw was when BM publicly badmouthed the company traditions, its feeder school, and dancers as being conservative and subpar. Badmouthing the institution for having traits endemic to being an institution with history is rather odd, same goes for badmouthing the POB feeder school and Platel its director. Did he not realize POB was such an institution when he took on the position of AD? Did he think he was able to dictate sweeping changes to traditions? Tearing down dancers for not dancing classical works in a high enough standard, that sort of thing should have been kept in-house, not in public and in ways meant to demean and embarrass the dancers. Also if he was so interested in preserving classicism in the French style, why did his programs for his two seasons as AD skew towards neo-classicism and modern?

I too think BM's reasons for wanting to leave POB and Paris probably are multifaceted. His interests of making short films and experimental works would entail that he would be more happy in L.A. His wife likely wanted to move back to L.A. as well, both for political and career reasons. BM most likely felt way in over his head earlier than is publicly disclosed, as it was written that plans to ease him out had been in discussion since last year. They knew it was a gamble hiring someone without AD experience, but they went ahead anyways because they wanted a glamorous hire. Now it has backfired on POB big time.

Dupont is a strange hiring too. Why rush into this AD decision this time around and especially since Dupont is one of BM's allies during his tenure at POB? Wouldn't it have been more prudent to open the position and go about it in a more deliberative fashion? If Dupont wanted the AD position she should have been also allowed to throw her hat into the ring along with other qualified candidates. Unless Dupont's appointment is only meant to be a stop gap measure, meaning she'll step in as AD for a season or two, and in the meantime the search for a more permanent AD goes on with more deliberation.

It is odd how "quickly" he resigned and there is a new director ready to go.

Thanks, everyone, for the detailed comments. This is turning into a bad movie drama.

Today, Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times has embarked on what only could be described as spin and damage control on behalf of Benjamin Millepied.

Her first article said, "Mr. Millepied’s departure will be a blow to the Opera’s image." A "blow"! Hardly. Then she managed to persuade editors to run an emergency picture profile of Millepied. She spoke nothing of his lack of experience running a ballet company before he went to POB; his lack of experience in the company's important classics; his complete lack of experience even performing any classical ballets anywhere during his entire lifetime; and that the honest truth is that Millepied was a 2nd rate principal at NYCB. He just wasn't that good. It's as though his movies have gone to his head. Then Roslyn Sulcas addresses Aurelie Dupont's appointment - "She has no experience running a company but she does know the troupe inside out." Hell, yeah, and that's pretty damn important for the dancers to have someone to look up to, someone who knows how the damn steps should be done, and someone who has a high respect for the institution. And Sulcas says that Millepied "organized dancer exchanges with the Mariinsky and American Ballet Theater." Did I miss an ABT season or two? When did anyone from POB come here to dance?

The New York Times, by the way, has nothing but contempt for all of bona fide classical ballet. They complain that it's almost as white as the NYT dance critic staff 😆😇🐱.

But I truly hope that the lovely Aurelie Dupont works out well as the Director. If it proves to be too much for her, then hopefully POB will still look from within its tradition for the right person. I wonder if Stephane Lissner's job might be teetering on the line, too.

Aurelie answers during the press conference is published https://www.dansesaveclaplume.com/pas-de-deux/41881-aurelie-dupont-je-suis-pleine-damour-pour-le-ballet-de-lopera-de-paris/

Based on this, she seems a better choice for POB. Let's hope she have the managerial skill to this difficult job.

Thanks, Ivy. Aurelie has certainly communicated her values quite clearly.

[Google-translated]:

I want to give more space to the ballet. For me, the Ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet remains a company with an opening on contemporary dance. This is not the opposite. It will never be a contemporary company that occasionally ballet. For me it is not enough to have only two classical programs of the 13 that make up a season. The dancers of the Paris Opera has a rare talent in classical dance, was a school that is strong. I want to give them confidence. I want to continue to find excellence in classical ballet because it is the strength of the company. [end of quote]

The cries from the contemporary enthusiasts that the Paris Opera Ballet needs an overhaul are grossly exaggerated and without much basis; they simply reflect a bias against all classical ballet. Aurelie indicated that there are other classical works that she wants to propose for the POB. She said that she will deal with the POB institution the way in which she dealt with them during her career: with patience, ambition, work and open-mindedness.

Love the Paris Opera Ballet. Love, love, love.

@Rose - yeah and the fact that he completely threw Sarah Lane under the bus. (Or at least didn't speak in her defense in any way) when Portman was trying to convince Oscar voters that she has done all her own dancing.

@Jessie

EXACTLY! What goes around comes around. I firmly believe Lane is in the dog house now because Millepied wanted to lionize his, at the time, future wife with dancing attributes she did not have and never would. All at the expense of one little Soloist who had no one on her side and was hoping the movie gig would give her some notice for her dance work.

I'm actually sorry to hear that Millepied didn't rise to the occasion. I'd always thought personally that he was overhyped, especially as a choreographer, but with his appointment at POB I thought maybe I had misjudged him and he had more substance than everything I'd seen and heard so far.

Genna, I believe Lefevre autocorrected to Leftover in your post. :-)

Thanks, elfantgirl. Public optimism, though measured, was evident in contemporary dance circles when Ben was appointed. I don't know of anyone who thought that he was going to "help" any classical aspects of the repertoire.

It is always interesting to hear U.S. and U.K. dance critics spew that the POB needs a big overhaul in every respect--particularly when the company waltzes into town and sells out every performance and delivers spectacular, unparalleled classical dancing. Do the Parisian dance critics routinely weigh in with arrogant complaints about how Kevin McKenzie should run ABT or the state of the Royal Ballet or National Ballet of Canada? I'd love to hear their opinions.

Then there is the race issue for which critics ignore that France is a nation with a national problem wherein citizens basically dislike ALL foreigners and those of foreign descent. ALL. It's not that French ballet is a final hold-out to social progress. The French don't want African, American, British, Japanese contributors or anyone else messing with their way of life -- no matter how innocent or well-intentioned. They don't like foreigners. Ask any foreign tourist about the attitudes they encounter. The critics' focus on one race is merely a convenient target that they know will rile up Americans and other citizens of the world who have more enlightened attitudes and fully understand the great benefits of inclusion.

It is odd how dance critics don't weigh in heavily on political issues involving Ukranians when the Russian ballet comes to town or the abysmal state of human affairs in China when the Chinese come dancing into town. Their silence is deafening. I completely skipped the last visit to Lincoln Center by the National Ballet of China because it came right at a time when news was covering the annual festive slaughter by boiling of puppies and kittens in China.

My most vivid memory of BM as a dancer is in a performance of T&V several years ago. First, the tights were wrinkly at the knees, and the crotch rather saggy. He gave up altogether in the turning variation and just stood there until the music ended.

There were encounters at various galas and parties that were equally disengaged.

I wondered if he had ever done a classical role anywhere. Guess not.

Perhaps your vivid memory of the T&V was an early indication of Ben's talent for posing.

Not entirely surprised because he walked out on his L.A. Dance Project just as it was getting off the ground. I never understood that. He seems to lack follow-through. At this point he looks like a dilettante.

In terms of putting in the work of creating a true LA ballet company, Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen are the ones doing it.

Sorry to be late to the discussion, but its an interesting one. Most people I know who have encountered BM, artistically or personally have mentioned his marvelous quality of disengagement. I never warmed up to him as a dancer. And, an engaging dancer ‘dont necessarily an effective administrator make.’ I LOVE Aurelie, and I hope she is up to the job of running the famously Byzantine POB. As Lefevre says, it “80% administrative’. It reminds me of a story from Julie Kavanagh’s bio of Nureyev. Years after his retirement from POB, he is relaxing with a friend watching a nature show on TV about the Florida Everglades. A dead sheep is thrown into a pit of alligators, and a vicious feeding frenzy ensues. “Ah, eez like Paris Opera’ Rudi hisses to his friend. Faites attention aux alligators, Aurelie!

The comments to this entry are closed.